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The scope and limits of Czechoslovak Perestroika: the case of party's programme.

Introduction

As Archie Brown says, "perestroika meant different things to different people at different times" (Brown 2007: 17). In his monumental writing Seven Years that Changed the World, the author pondered about differentiation among the then ruling actors in the USSR and particular East-European countries. The same could be applied to the current contemplations among historians and political scientists. For some the process of perestroika is only one of many unsuccessful attempts to reform the Soviet-type regime. I consider the Gorbachev's 'new policies' as a 'catalyst' of the regime-change. My perspective is based on Cohen's understanding of the term 'reform', which does not have to be seen only as a move toward liberalization and democratization in the Western sense (Cohen 1979: 189). Following this perspective, the non-democratic regime of the Soviet-type is not approached as a rigid and un-reformable structure, but as a dynamical system changing and developing within the limits of non-democracy logic. In this respect, this paper does not deal with (Czechoslovak) perestroika per se. Analysis of modest reforms in the field of political system and economy generally reveals much about rigidity/elasticity of the regimes.

As for the Czechoslovak reform, social scientists have not uncovered much about this topic. * After 1989 historians focused, primarily, on dominant themes of contemporary history. Stalinism in the 1950s, Prague Spring in 1968, democratic dissent, the Velvet revolution in 1989 and the transition to democracy have been the most favoured areas of interest. For majority of specialists, implicitly expressed, it is not worthy studying something that had not been fully put into practice. Twenty-five years after the fall of Communism we know almost everything about every single singer of Charter 77, but little about functioning of the outgoing regime. The picture of communist leadership allegedly opposing Gorbachev could be seen as a generally shared stereotype. Comparing reform processes in East-Central European countries in the late 1980s, we must admit that Czechoslovak perestroika was rather bashful. I go along with David Mason according to whom there were three types of reactions on Gorbachev's initiatives. After January 1987, Poland and Hungary "welcomed the Soviet initiatives as a confirmation of their own policies and as an implicit sanction for further liberalization" (Mason 1988: 437). On the other hand, East Germany and Romania refused to inspire and opposed to any reform impulses. Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria held the 'middle' position and launched modest reforms (Mason 1988: 437).

This paper tries to briefly demonstrate internal regime-development on the example of the genesis of the Party's programme. It is predominantly descriptive. The findings are primarily based on archival research. The content of the article mirrors the conference-presentation. ([dagger])

Genesis of the Programme

On the 10th November 1989 from 9:00 AM, a regular meeting of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist party of Czechoslovakia (CPC) took place. It was one day after the fall of the Berlin Wall and one week before the student demonstration in Prague, which set off so called Czechoslovak Velvet Revolution. Archival sources do not indicate anything uncommon. A simple transcript of the discussion retains neither nervousness of the members nor any other exceptionality (AA, f. 02/1, arch. j. P138/89, b. 0). ** Incidentally, the revolutionary events from Berlin were probably not discussed at all. Yet, the last regular session of the leadership before the breakdown of the regime was somehow special. The first item on the agenda was an appraisal and ratification of the Draft of the Party's Programme. According to the plan, the Draft was supposed to be publically discussed and subsequently in May 1990 finally approved by the delegates of the 18th Party Congress. Nevertheless, the Draft was eventually shed as a result of the epoch-making affairs of the following weeks. During the process of transition to democracy, no relevant participant (both communists and oppositionists) referred to the process of perestroika. That is to say, the modest pre-1989 reforms did not entail liberalisation as a phase of transition.

The programme was supposed to summarize, justify and explain principles of prepared reforms to Czechoslovak people. Analysis of the document could, I am convinced, say much about the scope and limits of the Czechoslovak perestroika and about the functioning of the regime during the late stage of its existence. The Communist party had not come up with any programmatic document since 1970. In this year, the Central Committee approved 'Pouceni z krizoveho vyvoje ve strane a spolecnosti po XIII. sjezdu KSC' (Lessons Learned from the Crisis Development in the Party and Society after the 13th Congress of the CPC). 'Pouceni' was a cardinal ideological canon of the regime. This document justified the process of 'normalisation' ([dagger]) ([dagger]) after the military suppression of reform process in August of 1968. It defined 'what socialism is' and completely refused the democratization of the Prague Spring. The main initiator and author of the document, the Secretary of the Central Committee, Vasil Bil'ak, considered its content a universal guide for policy making. It is highly disputable if it served as an ideological guide for society. Rather, it imposed internal limits (besides external limits imposed by Leonid Brezhnev) for Czechoslovak politicians and party functionaries. The problem with 'Pouceni' lies in the fact that after 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev started with changes that were very similar to the Prague Spring reforms. For Vasil Bil'ak and for other members of the 'conservative wing', it was very problematic to accept Gorbachev's initiative along with persisting on the principles of 'Pouceni'. However, Bil'ak pronounced several times in the second half of the 1980s publically and internally: 'Pouceni' is still valid. ([double dagger]) This idea constituted a significant obstacle for dynamism of the regime. Nevertheless, international environment and impulses streaming from the USSR were stronger than conservatism inside the communist leadership.

Although this paper does not aspire to provide deep analysis of the final stage of the Czechoslovak non-democratic regime, let us briefly describe the facts of the period. Czechoslovak perestroika could be preliminary divided into three distinctive phases (Stefek 2010). First two years after the election of Mikhail Gorbachev as General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee could be characterized as a 'waiting game' and neutral attitude toward Gorbachev on the part of Czechoslovak leadership. Leaving out some changes in the field of foreign policy, Gorbachev had not come up with deep changes before January 1987 (see below). Theses that the Soviet leader articulated in 1985 and 1986 were generally accepted among the members of the Presidium. General ideas on 'radical reform' that Gorbachev presented to the delegates of the 27th Congress of the CPSU in 1986 were not taken in consideration seriously. Contrary to Hungary and Poland, Czechoslovak leadership did not start with reforms independently. Launching the Czechoslovak perestroika was induced externally.

For Czechoslovak people, the introduction of the (economic) reform came unexpectedly. On the 9th of January 1987 communist newspaper Rude pravo published 36 general principles for reconstruction of the economic system. *** These principles became a basis for the later (1988) approval of the Czechoslovak Law on State Enterprise, the most important outcome of the reform. A sudden turn of the course was induced directly by the Soviet General Secretary. Absolute majority inside the leadership of the CPC was not in favour of any reforms. Since the early 1970s, the Presidium had been split into two vaguely defined tendencies. ([dagger] ([dagger]) ([dagger]) There was a 'conservative' wing led by Vasil Bilak and his adherents Alois Indra, Milos Jakes, Jozef Lenart, and Karel Hoffmann (all of which had collaborated with Soviet leadership in August 1968). On the other side, the Federal Prime Minister Lubomir Strougal represented a 'pragmatic' or even 'reformist' wing. The latter was calling for modest reforms from the early 1980s, but its capacity to initiate some changes was highly limited.

Despite the fact that conservatives implicitly opposed ([double dagger]) ([double dagger]) any reforms, they were not able to refuse the new Soviet course completely. Additionally, Vasil Bilak and his adherents were not used to opposing Soviet General Secretary at all. On the 10th and 11th November 1986, the General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee Gustav Husak ([section]) took part in the meeting of The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) leaders in Moscow. According to the archival documents, Mikhail Gorbachev clearly said to the partakers that there were two alternatives: reforms or decay (AA, f. 02/1, arch. j. P20/86, b. 1). One week later, Gorbachev sent the stenographs from the meeting to Prague. Gustav Husak decided to set this affair into the agenda of both the Presidium and the Plenum of the Central Committee. On the 4th December 1986, every member of the Central Committee was allowed to read original Gorbachev's ideas encouraging reforms initiation. At the turn of 1986 and 1987 it was clear that Perestroika would be integral part of the general discourse.

The concept of the Czechoslovak perestroika shifted significantly a few days later. The January plenary session of the CPSU Central Committee in 1987 could be considered as a turning point in the Soviet history. Mikhail Gorbachev managed to push a radical reform (democratization of the Party, change of the cadre policy, Law on State Enterprise) through the Central Committee. This act had a significant impact on Czechoslovak leadership as well. Without doubt, the absolute majority inside the Presidium was not in favour of the newest Soviet policy. Despite this fact, circumstances forced Czechoslovak politicians to deal with it; Gorbachev's initiative encouraged the until then relatively stable and inert regime to gradually change. There is a humorous story concerning the way of how this issue was (unintentionally) set into the Presidium's agenda. That is to say, it was very common in Czechoslovakia to publish uncensored translation of Gorbachev's speeches in the official newspaper. It happened so in the period from the 28th to 30th January 1987. Rude pravo published all the important documents of the CPSU Central Committee plenum. **** Naturally, their content was not in line with the predominant conservative views. Three weeks later, General Secretary of the Party, the President of Czechoslovakia Gustav Husak, opened the 27th meeting of party's Presidium with these words: "We published all Soviet documents. The society shall pose a question what we will do" (AAA, f. 02/1, arch. j. P27/87, b. 0). Indeed, the Party's newspaper, the alleged tool for propaganda and indoctrination, popularized and established serious discussion on perestroika (sic!). After long-running debate among the Presidium members, the ruling body decided on starting with modest reforms (Stefek 2010: 112). ([dagger] ([dagger]) ([dagger]) ([dagger])

Despite a relatively consensual output, the relations between leadership members were not idyllic at all. The period from February to December 1987 was (besides the Prague Spring) probably the most dynamical time in the history of the regime in Czechoslovakia. On the one hand, the factional struggle for power and for the limits of the reforms brought out. On the other hand, many reform projects in the field of political system and economy were (unwillingly) prepared. The scope and limits of Czechoslovak perestroika must be seen as the result of the factionalism and disagreements inside the Presidium. ([double dagger]) ([double dagger]) ([double dagger]) At the end of 1987, the conservative wing ousted the General Secretary Gustav Husak (until December 1989 the President of Czechoslovakia) who moderately supported Strougal's progressive line. The new General Secretary, Milos Jakes, approached the reforms with restraint. Moreover, during 1988 almost all adherents of the reforms left the leadership (including Lubomir Strougal). *****

At the first sight, the conservative tendency prevailed. In spite of their indisputable supremacy, the Presidium could not refuse reforms completely--neither internally nor publically. The 19th All-Union Conference of the CPSU in 1988 was the event of the highest importance both for the USSR and for the other countries in the Bloc. Theses declared by Mikhail Gorbachev in June 1988 went beyond the limits that he defined in the January 1987. While the ideas of 'January' would not be in contradiction with the logic of functioning of the Soviet-type regime, the resolution of the 19th Conference moved the USSR to the liberalisation or even democratization. There was a great aversion toward Soviet policies on the part of the Czechoslovak leadership. Yet, they had no power to say no to Gorbachev. In September 1988 the Party came up with the 'schedule' for the consequent reform implementation (AA, f. 02/1, arch. j. P86/88, b. 12). Notwithstanding, the third phase of perestroika could be considered yet another 'waiting game'. In summer 1988 the Presidium decided to call the 18th Con gress one year earlier--in May 1990. ([dagger]) ([dagger]) ([dagger]) ([dagger]) ([dagger]) The further preparation of the reforms was significantly influenced by this timing. The Party worked on several concepts, which were supposed to be implemented after the approval of the Congress delegates. These were applied for the Party's programme as well.

Approximately two years after the initiation of perestroika in Czechoslovakia the Party admitted the need to generate a document summarizing the reform process. The Plenum of the Central Committee agreed the constitution of the special council established for the programme genesis. ([double dagger]) ([double dagger]) ([double dagger]) ([double dagger]) ([double dagger]) Approximately one year later, on the 20th October 1989, the leadership met to discuss and evaluate the first version of the Draft. Obviously, the members of the Presidium were surprised or even shocked by the content and as well as by its quality. The simple hand-written transcript indicates general disarray among the partakers. The collective view expressed a member of the Presidium, Miroslav Zavadil, perfectly: "The submitted proposal does not agree with my views, but I cannot say what it should look like ([section]) ([section]) It was agreed that the Draft gets adopted by the 'academia'. If the academia has produced this, it reflects its poor standards. I feel embarrassed to evaluate this document, but there is little time left until the Congress" (NA, f. 02/1, arch. j. P135/89, b. 0). The Secretary of the Central Committee, Karel Hoffmann, added: "With such a programme the leadership would fail altogether" (Ibid).

Three weeks later, the reconstructed Draft was set on the agenda of the Presidium. Its content indicates a significant shift of the acceptable scope of perestroika. First and foremost, it is the first party-document of such importance since 1971, which does not mention 'Pouceni' at all. ****** The programme does not provide an innovative view on the Prague Spring, but it reinterprets processes of the early 'normalisation'. For instance, the authors confessed to mistakes during the purges in 1969 and 1970, ([dagger]) ([dagger]) ([dagger]) ([dagger]) ([dagger]) ([dagger]) they criticised formalism, bureaucratism, and problems of the economy. The Draft even says that the then Party's effort to intervene in all spheres of the life led to people's alienation (AA, f. 02/1, arch. j. P138/89, b. 1). This kind of self-criticism could be considered as a precondition for any further reform-attempt. Moreover, some other passages of the document outline possible limits of the perestroika. As for the existing leading role of the KPC, the authors of the Programme do not call for it at all costs (sic!):

"The Party will continue to achieve a decisive influence on the political life and be in the forefront of the struggle for further social progress in the country. It recognizes that its leading role in the society is legitimate only, if the Party is able to be the force that selflessly serves the working class, working people, their interests, and if it can identify, formulate, integrate, consistently and decisively advance and satisfy their interests" (Ibid).

Some concluding remarks

The dynamics of the regime during the last year of its existence were predestined by the waiting for the 18th Party Congress, which should have taken place in May 1990. Indeed, something changed in Czechoslovakia in the late 1980s. The party and state leadership unusually expected far-reaching changes related to the resolution of the Congress, including the deep 'cadre castling' in the Central Committee. The Draft of the Programme (among some other outstanding documents) was supposed to be approved by the Congress delegates. That is to say, the content of the document had more likely the character of an anticipation of the post-Congress situation rather than the description of leadership's attitudes in 1989. ([double dagger]) ([double dagger]) ([double dagger]) ([double dagger]) ([double dagger]) Although the analysis of the Programme is a relatively minor issue from the global historiographical perspective, its study leads us to two concluding remarks.

Firstly, tracing the genesis of the Draft, we can document a character of agenda setting and decision-making process inside the structure of the ruling party. The traditional view delineates an image according to which the power streams exclusively from the top to bottom. In the 1950s, this picture was essential for the sustaining the totalitarian model in the field of western 'sovietology'. Empirical study of the political process inside the Party retrospectively affirms theses of the proponents of 'pluralistic school', who pondered about the reversed flow of power, ideas and values (which are essential for the functioning of all social systems). It follows from my research that the dynamics and change of the regime consisted of a 'modest pluralisation' of political process. Inside the Party there was no relevant actor thinking of broader democratization of the system. All changes, albeit significant, were confined to the framework of the authoritarian structure. With the help of the Ludz's theory, we can argue that the effect of Czechoslovak perestroika in the field of political system rested in the strengthening of the 'consultative' aspects of the political process (see Skilling 1970, Ludz 1972). Even though the 'top' of the party structure had power to decide all the important societal issues, its capacity to influence the shape of particular policies was rather limited. Not only the 'top of the pyramid', but some other State- and Party-organs participated in politics.

Secondly, the authors of the Programme said, consciously or unconsciously, much about their understanding of the then existing world:

"Our relation to capitalism represents the socioeconomic formation; the launch of which is a great historical progress. In its development capitalism proved hugely adaptable. The most developed countries of this system have already managed to make use of and develop the scientific and technological revolution; in spite of the decline as the consequence of the socialistic and national revolutions. As a result of the struggle for the capitalistic labourers' rights and the effect of the socialistic world, it also enabled capitalism to successfully resolve a number of social issues" (AAA, f. 02/1, arch. j. P138/89, b. 1).

The quoted passage says much about the authors' perspective. It seems almost unbelievable that party's Presidium accepted a view resembling main arguments of the convergence theorists. In 1960s, opponents of the totalitarian model refused the 'black and white' view to the functioning of western democracy and eastern totalitarianism. Although there were many variants of the convergence theories, the basic tenet was based on the idea according to which East and West is becoming more alike (Brzezinski & Huntington 1978: 9) Here, I would like to avoid discussing the credibility of such a theory. That is to say, its principals were very unpopular both in the USA and the USSR. Yet, we can argue clearly that the acceptance of such perspective makes the scope and limits of Czechoslovak version of perestroika very flexible. The then ruling elite was well aware of the fact that their era would finish in May 1990. It is highly difficult (and controversial) to anticipate the hypothetical post-Congress situation. Yet, one thing is clear. The Jakes's leadership had no chance to continue. The prepared programme of the Party seems to be the basis for the intended shift of the reform-concept toward the convergence of socialism and market economy.

In the previous paragraphs I used the expression "waiting game" applied for the Presidium's attitude toward the new Soviet policies in the first and third phase of the perestroika. It is not worthy posing the question of what the Party's leadership was waiting for. For analytical purposes, it is more utile to examine the reason of the inaction. Obviously, this approach was not typical only for the implementation of reforms in the late of 1980s. That is to say, political process in Czechoslovakia after 1969 was predominantly gradual, devoid of revolutionary changes. Naturally, one does not expect deep transformation at all costs. Yet, lieutenants of the regime were not able to come up with objectively necessary reforms in the field of economy before the launch of the perestroika. As Lubomir Strougal said to East-German Prime-Minister Willi Stoph in March 1985, there was no support for the reforms, neither in Czechoslovakia nor abroad (Stefek 2010: 113). As noted above, there was no reform-zeal even after the disappearance of the great external barrier. Such a stability or even 'rigidity' was not based on conservative predominance inside the highest organs of the Party only. The 'Immobility' reveals much about the character of the regime. The kind of 'waiting game' was an integral part of the decision-making process before 1989. There exists a theory with great explanatory value that can systematize the arguments. In 1978, Valerie Bunce and John M. Echols employed the paradigm of incrementalism to explain minor changes in policies. They tried to utilize the concept which had been applied mainly to democratic polities (Bunce & Echols 1978: 913). Even though this experiment has not been generally acknowledged, it seems that it can explain much about (not only) Czechoslovak political processes in 1970s and 1980s. The authors tried to problematize the contention that "communist polities differ fundamentally in their organization and principles from Western democratic regimes, and that these differences naturally lead to greater policy shifts than are exhibited in the West" (Bunce & Echols 1978: 914). Bunce and Echols contrast western pluralist power structure and instrumental political culture with communist centralization and ideological political culture (Ibid). This contrast implies incrementalism in the former case and a great dynamism in the latter. Yet, there was incremental political process in pre-1989 Czechoslovakia, as noted above. So what was the precondition for the Czechoslovak 'waiting game' (a kind of incrementalism)? Firstly, there was an unquestionable lack of the ideological factor in political culture. Secondly, (and more important) there existed a kind of 'pluralism' (albeit not perfect) inside the political structure. The conflict between tendencies inside the highest organs (and between institutions) was not in favour to the resolute move forwards. Finally, it is worthy cogitating on the above 'convergence' in the context of Bunce and Echols' arguments.

References:

Archival resources: National Archives (Narodni archive Ceske republiky) Archivni 4/2257, 149 00 Praha 4--Chodovec. Archival Fonds: 02/1 (Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party) Zapisy ze zasedani plena UV (Stenograph from the Central Committee meetings)

Periodicals: Rude pravo (volume 67)

Books, articles: Brown, A., (2007). Seven Years That Changed the World: Perestroika in Perspektive. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Brzezinski, Z. & Huntington, S. P. (1978). Political Power: USA/USSR. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.

Bunce, V. & Echols, J. M. (1978). Power and Policy in Communist Systems: The Problem of "Incrementalism". Tha Journal of Politics, (40), 911-932.

Cohen, S. F. (1979). The Friends and Foes of Change: Reformism and Conservatism in the Soviet Union. Slavic Review, (63), 187-202.

Ludz, P. Ch. (1972). The Changing Party Elite in East Germany. Cambridge: The MIT Pr. Mason, D. S., (1988). Glasnost, Perestroika and Eastern Europe. International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-), (64), 431-448.

Otahal, M. (2002). Aormalizace 1969-1989: Prispevek ke stavu badani. Praha: USD AV CR.

Pullmann, M. (2011). Konec experimentu: prestavba a pad komunismu v Ceskoslovensku. Praha: Scriptorium.

Saxonberg, S. (2001). The Fall: A Comparative Study of the End of Communism in Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary and Poland. Amsterdam: Harwood.

Skilling, H. G. (1970). Group Conflict and Political Change. In Johnson, Ch. (editor), Changes in Communist Systems. Stanford, Stanford University Press, 215-234.

Stefek, M. (2010). Komunisticka strana Ceskoslovenska a proces pfestavby v letech 1985-1989. In Kocian, J. & Pazout, J. & Rakosnik, J. (editors), Bolsevismus, komunismus a radikalni socialismus v Ceskoslovensku: Svazek VII, Praha: USD AV CR, Dokofan, 92-138.

Article Info

Received: April 25 2014

Accepted: May 15 2014

* In English language, it is worthy studying Saxonberg, S. (2001). The Fall: A Comparative Study of the End of Communism in Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary and Poland. Amsterdam: Harwood. In Czech language, see Pullmann, M. (2011). Konec experimentu: prestavba a pad komunismu v Ceskoslovensku. Praha: Scriptorium.

** NA (National Archives), f. (archival fond), arch. j. (numbering of the meetings), b. (item).

*** cf. Rude pravo, Vol. 67, No. 7, p. 3. Detailed analysis of the Czechoslovak economy reform in: (Pullmann 2011: 75-93).

**** cf. Rude pravo, Vol. 67, No. 22, 23, 24.

***** From 1971 to 1986 the leadership was very stable with only minor personnel changes. From 1987 to 1988 the composition of the Central Committee Presidium, the Secretariat and even the Federal Government changed significantly. The triumph of the conservatives was significantly influenced by Gorbachev alone, who refused to support Czechoslovak reform wing (cf. Saxonberg 2001: 127).

****** It is necessary to mention in this context, that the author of the, Pouceni', Vasil Bilak, quit the leadership in December 1988.

([dagger]) Some arguments contained in this paper are based on the text of my so far unpublished book Za fasadou jednoty (Behind the facade of the Unity).

([dagger]) ([dagger]) The term 'normalisation' means the revival of the monopoly of power (Otahal 2002: 5). Czech historians apply it for the period from 1969 to 1989.

([dagger]) ([dagger]) ([dagger]) I try to avoid using the term faction'. That is to say, the groups inside the broader leadership were not organized; the boundaries between them were rather blurred.

([dagger]) ([dagger]) ([dagger]) ([dagger]) The debates related to the January Plenum dealt with new Czechoslovak Constitution, the reform of electoral system for parliamentary elections, cadre policy, the status of the National Front, federalization of the Party, internal organization of the Apparatus, etc. Only few changes were implemented until the Velvet revolution.

([dagger]) ([dagger]) ([dagger]) ([dagger]) ([dagger]) For the first time, the leadership discussed this affair shortly after the 19th All-Union Conference of the CPSU (cf. AA, f. 02/1, arch. j. P78/88, b. 0).

([dagger]) ([dagger]) ([dagger]) ([dagger]) ([dagger]) ([dagger]) Nearly 500 000 members of the CPC quit the party after August 1968.

([double dagger]) cf. Rude pravo, Vol. 67, No. 42, p. 1. (Interview with the Secretary of the Central Committee Vasil Bil'ak on the 20th February 1987).

([double dagger]) ([double dagger]) It is necessary to mention that Bil'ak's conservative wing did not refused perestroika explicitly. They always stressed unique conditions of Czechoslovakia. On the contrary, the federal Prime Minister and his adherents considered the perestroika a universal programme for all countries in the bloc. Lubomir Strougal revealed this difference publicly. On the 3rd March 1987 the Rude pravo published his critical speech concerning the intra-party factionalism: "There is no need to conceal that there have been attempts to narrow the meaning of new ideas and experience of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union characterizing its current policy only to the Soviet Union itself. Whilst verbally acknowledging the revolutionary range of processes that take place there, in the same breath it is added that these are specific issues since the Soviet conditions are completely different. It is interesting to note that suddenly these views are spread by people who would previously recognize national specificities only if they were seen in the deep shadow of generally valid and natural principles and tendencies. They absolutized these general patterns then, now, for a change they are tempted to absolutize our specificities". In: Rude pravo, Vol. 67, No. 51, p. 3.

([double dagger]) ([double dagger]) ([double dagger]) Similarly to other ruling parties in the Soviet Bloc, the Presidium was the highest political organ in Czechoslovakia. After the 17th Congress in 1986, it consisted of eleven members: Gustav Husak (the General Secretary of the Central Committee; Czechoslovak President), Vasil Bilak (the Secretary of the Central Committee), Peter Colotka (Prime Minister of the Slovak government), Karel Hoffmann (Chief of the Trade-Unions), Alois Indra (President of the Federal Assembly), Milos Jakes (the Secretary of the Central Committee), Antonin Kapek (Head Secretary of the Party's Committee in Prague), Josef Kempny (the President of the Czech National Council), Josef Korcak (the Prime Minister of the Czech government), Jozef Lenart (the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Slovak Communist Party), Lubomir Strougal (the Federal Prime Minister). Besides eleven full-members, candidates of the Presidium and other Central Committee Secretaries took part the meetings of the leadership.

([double dagger]) ([double dagger]) ([double dagger]) ([double dagger]) Cf. AA, KSC--UV, zasedani plena, zapis ze zasedani 10. a 11. fijna 1988 (The stenograph of the Plenum of CPC Central Committee held on the 10th and 11th October 1988).

([double dagger]) ([double dagger]) ([double dagger]) ([double dagger]) ([double dagger]) It is necessary to add that the members of the Presidium were well aware of the fact that there was a great incongruence between the societal will and the views of the CPC leadership.

([section]) It seems to me that he held 'centrist' position between the two vaguely defined wings with moderate inclination toward reformists. He became a symbol of the regime despite the fact that he was not such a powerful leader.

([section]) ([section]) That is to say, this attitude was not unique among the members of the Presidium. Many of conservatives shared the hostility to the Gorbachev proposals as well as awareness of the fact that the system had to be reformed.

Martin Stefek, Lecturer, Mgr., Metropolitan University Prague, Prague, E-mail: stefek@mup.cz.
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Title Annotation:Original paper
Author:Stefek, Martin
Publication:Revista de Stiinte Politice
Date:Oct 1, 2014
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